Tulane basketball program in need of rescue
The latest sign that points to a Russian winter for Tulane men’s basketball.
Final: Alabama A&M 67, Tulane 59.
The SWAC Bulldogs claimed their first win of the year after 11 losses.
In year three under Mike Dunleavy, Tulane was hoping that balanced scoring would wave off concerns about the losses of Melvin Frazier (to the NBA Draft) and steady senior Cameron Reynolds.
Instead, without those two, the hill to climb has proven to be steep. With American Athletic Conference play ready to commence, that incline will become only more severe.
When Dunleavy arrived as head coach Uptown, he touted his ability to teach the game the NBA way. The message was loud and clear. ‘Come play for me, and I will show you how to get to the league.’
In college basketball, recruiting is job one. On most nights, Tulane is still out-manned. Against a reasonable non-conference schedule, that is more than a little alarming.
The most successful coach in the history of NCAA men’s basketball, the late John Wooden, was asked about his remarkable success which included winning 10 NCAA titles in the space of 12 seasons.
“The team with the best players usually wins,” said Wooden.
Tulane has played the entire season without starting point guard Ray Ona Embo. In a recent interview with the Times-Picayune, Dunleavy said point guard was the place his team could least afford a hit.
Ona Embo has battled a lingering knee injury.
In the meantime, winning men’s basketball at Tulane continues to have a high degree of difficulty.
Since the 1999-2000 season under Perry Clark, Tulane has had one 20 win season (back in 2012-2013 under former head coach Ed Conroy).
Speaking of Conroy, his tenure should be more appreciated. Tulane won 92 games in six seasons, for an average of more than 15 a year. Plus, he accomplished those victories with far less resources that have been allocated for Dunleavy.
But it’s important to note that mistakes were made long before Dunleavy and his boss, director of athletics Troy Dannen, arrived on campus.
The ability to attract top flight assistant coaches was hindered by putrid pay, as compared to similar programs. Millions were spent on the renovation of Devlin Fieldhouse, which frankly needs to be raised and replaced.
Instead of spending $80 million on a football stadium that was not needed, Tulane could have used that money to build a first-class basketball arena with 6,000 to 7,000 seats and convenient parking on the Yulman Stadium footprint.
What should do now? Move downtown to play some key conference games at the Smoothie King Center. Here’s why.
Men’s and women’s basketball is a place where Tulane can make its name nationally. There’s no reason why Tulane can’t be Butler or George Mason or Virginia Commonwealth. Win pretty much every year and advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Such a run is worth millions in free publicity to the University.
As for the 2018-2019 season, Tulane basketball would appear to be taking its lumps with no end in sight.
Last season, the Green Wave improved from six wins to 14. Forward momentum was palpable.
That “mo” has come to a screeching halt. The roster at Tulane needs to be improved dramatically.
For the four coaches who have followed Perry Clark, that task of measuring up to his success has proven to be difficult.
Shawn Finney had five seasons, Dave Dickerson five more, and Ed Conroy was given six to build a consistent winner.
In basketball, Tulane University should not be below average or just average.
It’s time for someone in charge to find the answer to a pair of real Olive and Blue questions.
Why aren’t we better in basketball? What will it take to fix it?
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Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…